ELI5: If you're a Christian, why do you have to be good if Jesus will forgive you no matter what? (kbin.social)

I grew up going to church but I'm not religious now and I never really understood this part.

Please, no answers along the lines of "aha, that's why Christianity is a sham" or "religions aren't logical". I don't want to debate whether it's right or wrong, I just want to understand the logic and reasoning that Christians use to explain this.


TLDR: He doesn't forgive anyone who sins, he forgives those who repent. Repent not meaning "feeling sorry" as many seem to explain, but actually meaning "to turn away" which means changing fundamentally as a human being. From a bad person to a good person.

Someone who doesn't change and act good most of the time isn't repentant, so isn't forgiven. So basically, you prove it with your actions and how you live your life, not with just words only. By this measurement, Republican "Christians" aren't repentant and so aren't forgiven.

Not a Christian anymore, but I used to be for a very long time. Sidebar: "You will know a tree by it's fruit" AKA you'll know what kind of person someone is by what they do. Anyone who's even skimmed the bible (especially the new testament) would easily understand that most conservative "christians" aren't Christian at all, but rather like the Pharisees (phony religious types) that Jesus constantly argued with and condemned.

Other note: Sikhs actually live the way Christian claim to. I could easily make a "hard to swallow pill" meme which said: "Sikhs are better Christians than actual Christians are."


Welp you don't want to hear it but the best explanation is religion is a system to scam commoners of their devotion and money. If things start not making sense then you should stop believing in Santa Claus

Enttropy avatar



I had a teacher in school who believed in predestination. Basically, whether you go to heaven or hell is pre-ordained before your even born and there's nothing you can do to change it. I told him that sounded to me like I should be a Satanist because if I'm predestined for heaven I've worshipped Satan all my life for nothing and I get to chill in heaven. If I'm predestined to go to hell I've spent so much time worshipping Satan it probably won't be too bad. I'm personally not really religious myself but I really was dumbfounded at the whole predestination thing.


Biblically the teacher is right. God does know where you are going to end up when he creates you. That's the doctorine.


that... does not sound right. humans have free will

BaldProphet avatar

One view is that God knows how people will end up not because He is forcing them to act a certain way, but because He has a perfect knowledge of the outcomes of their actions. Kind of like how a parent knows what the outcome of a small child's actions will be.

Maestro avatar

You're not a parent, are you? 😁


I'm not the commenter but it seems fairly obvious what they're saying.

The child doesn't know that touching the hot stove will burn them, but you do because you have a lifetime of experience.

To add to this: To the child, it's essentially magic that you know exactly where the heat starts, and how you have the ability to boil water.

If you're saying it in a light-hearted 'lol kids are chaos' way then yeah.


Apparently humans having free will doesn't contradict omniscience. Logically it does of course but the religious ignore the logic.


They have free will but omniscience means it's known ahead of time what that free will will lead to.

If you give a 3 year old the choice between watching either the news or baby shark, you can pretty reliably predict the outcome. That but on a bigger scale.

At least that's the explanation that was given to me.


I know I'm preaching to the choir but omniscience will have to do much better than that. Let's say someone decides to make a choice depending on the outcome of a throw of a dice. You might say it's trivial for omniscience to predict what a dice shows by perfect physical knowledge.

But how about if someone makes a choice depending on the content of opening a Schrodinger's cat's box? Omniscience will have to be able to predict what is currently physically impossible to predict.

Then someone might argue it is not impossible for omniscience to do that but then we're back in "believe it" territory and not "there is a logical explanation" territory.


The omnipotence, when combined with the concept of omnipresence creates a situation of god existing outside our concept of time. It’s similar to how we exist outside the concept of time held by those characters contained in a movie. At our will we can exist at any point(s) in time in the movie, because of this we already know the ending.

BaldProphet avatar

This is exactly what I believe, that God is able to look into our universe as if from outside, seeing the whole of it (including time) all at once.

CrazyEddie041 avatar

The term "free will" is not in the Bible, and there are instances of God overriding people's will, such as God hardening Pharoah's heart so that he wouldn't release the Israelites.


Humans believe they have free will. If you think that you have free will, in what way does that differ meaningfully to you from actually having free will?

This gets weird, because the human brain appears to make decisions unconsciously before you consciously make that choice. It appears that our "rational" , thinking brain is making up reasons why we did a thing, rather than those reasons actually driving the choice. So did you--the consciousness that you conceptualize as being yourself--really make that choice, or is there some other 'dark' you that's driving, and you only think you're in control?


But he's all knowing and all powerful?


Which means he knows exactly what you will do for the rest of your life which means what you will do is predetermined.

Talaraine avatar

That's an... interesting take on predestination. The idea is that God already knows what you're going to do, because he's omniscient. It's not a matter of just picking you and then whatever you do is fine. He already 'knew' what you were going to do. So if you're good, he already knew and you're in.

If you wanna get into a religious debate about predestination, though, strap in. It's a doozy.


Omniscience and free will are contradictory but only if you feel like you should be bound by the laws of logic.


Writ on a broader scale, if someone has power over you (say a government) but chooses not to get involved when you do something, is that free will? Or have they just not prohibited the action you chose to take? I think you have to scope what you mean by free will for there to be any semblance of it given how nebulous "will" can be. If you believe that outcomes are even to some degree deterministic (say, for example, we are predisposed a certain way because of our background, but may act differently because of our beliefs), then it is compatible with a definition of Free Will that has an omniscient being knowing what we will do.


Writ on a broader scale, if someone has power over you (say a government) but chooses not to get involved when you do something, is that free will?


Or have they just not prohibited the action you chose to take?

Not relevant. You still had the free will to act.

? I think you have to scope what you mean by free will for there to be any semblance of it given how nebulous "will" can be. If you believe that outcomes are even to some degree deterministic (say, for example, we are predisposed a certain way because of our background, but may act differently because of our beliefs), then it is compatible with a definition of Free Will that has an omniscient being knowing what we will do.

I have no idea what you are trying to say with this word salad. Being predisposed doesn't negate free will. You could be a coward for example and be predisposed to run and hide when there is danger but you have the free will to act bravely when the situation presents itself. You or me or anybody else can't know for sure what you will do. More absurdly you or me or anybody else can't know how you will act in any given situation the minute your fathers sperm penetrated your mother's egg.

That's the situation here. The minute the egg is fertilized god knows exactly what you will in every moment of every day for the rest of your life. That means you don't have free will. You can't surprise god, you can't do anything he didn't foresee.


It sounds like you know more than this about me so correct me if I'm wrong but my understanding is there's a difference between just plain omniscience (which sounds like what you're describing in your comment, and is pretty widely accepted among Christian denominations) and actual predestination (which to my understanding is almost exclusively a Calvinist belief).

Talaraine avatar

That's what I meant by a religious debate. It's clearly got some logical complexities that not everyone will agree with.

chuso avatar

Sounds like your teacher followed the calvinist branch of Christianity then?

Predestination (in terms of religious salvation but also in general, like in determinism) is something that I always found fascinating. Because, if you are predestined to something (either to salvation or to just wake up today), why do we even try so hard if the outcome is already preset? Why try to be a good person if you are already destined to go to heaven or hell since you've been born? Or why do you set the alarm to wake up early in the morning and go to work if you have no influence on what will happen? Couldn't you just sleep the whole day and the result would be the same because it's already preset?
I guess you wouldn't really have that choice. If a full determinism is true, there is no room for free will and even trying to affect the result is something you are already predestined to do and any choice you think you make (or even vacillating over the choices you make) is still something you were predestined to do and only an illusion of free will.


He sure did! And yeah, that's pretty much how I felt about his beliefs. If everything is decided already, then there's no point in having any motivation to do anything because it won't matter. Your destination is decided no matter what, so just do whatever you want regardless of if it's morally just or not.

576F726B696E675370616E69617264 avatar

God will only forgive you if you repent. You can't be a dick all your existence, say "Please forgive me at the end" without truly beliving it and that's it.


but if you do truly repent then you can be a dick all your life and still get to heaven.

AttackBunny avatar

But if you are truly repentant, you can't be a dick all your life. Those two things can't exist in the same space for long.


But if you are truly repentant, you can't be a dick all your life.

Why not?

You can be a dick to the gays and trans people, you can be a dick to the muslims and the athiests, you can even be a dick to the christians of other denominations. In fact you are commanded to be a dick to all of those people because you are commanded to preach to them and try and convert them.

MrsEaves avatar

Raised Catholic, not my jam. But as I understand it, if you go to confession without being truly sorry and having a sincere intent not to sin again, it doesn’t work. So if you’re going in with the attitude that confession is basically insurance against hell and you can just use it to get everything fixed up at the end of your life, but you’re also knowingly neglecting your soul and have the intention deep inside to be a jerk and keep sinning, God’s gonna be like “sorry, we don’t cover that” and deny your claim.

AlteredStateBlob avatar

The point of the new. Testament , meaning the new pact was to free up Jewish believers from the very strict rules and requirements of worship to attain gods good graces. The whole idea of forgiveness was mainly aimed to free you up to actually do some of the good things required to achieve what you might be praying for, rather than just sit in temple and hope for the best by gods will alone.

On a core doctrinal level for Catholicism, Christians should strive to emulate Jesus as best you could to help build the kingdom of heaven in this world already, rather than just wait for the after life. They are also bound to obey the laws and be good citizens. It really all boils down to don't be a dick.

The promise of forgiveness was aimed, in historical context, at loosening the strict requirements of Judaism and also to allow for non believers that lived good lives to be considered saved, to allow Christians simpler coexistence than it might have been..

Obviously you will rarely if ever find anyone living like that in actuality.

naughtynumbernine avatar

OK so he died for nothing if NO ONE sinned... so just sin a little because he purified the human race through his sacrifice so don't make his suffering worse... (It's hard to logic this way but if you truly thought your sins were purged by his crucifixion, you might make an economic argument out of it).

Rhodin avatar

Jesus died to fix the issues caused by Adam and Eve’s sins of eating the fruit they weren’t supposed to, then throwing others under the bus to when called out for it. Even if we all behaved perfectly from then on, we’d still be mortals in fallen world.


The “be a good person” and “you’ll be forgiven” are two separate ideas. Digging into it requires digging into a lot of different religions and their beliefs. Churches and people disagree on how those go together.

I don’t feel your request of “understanding the reasoning that Christians use” relates well to the question in your title. Much of religion now is repeating dogma rather than spiritual awareness and bettering yourself.


In Jesus’s time, there were three different sects of Judaism.

One of them, the Sadducees, allegedly believed there was no life after death and that God didn’t care at all about what people did or didn’t do.

Their answer to your question of following the law is perhaps the most interesting.

They believed that what was put forth as laws were a gift to humanity and that following them inherently led to a better life in the here and now.

While I don’t personally see all of the laws put forward as beneficial, there are certainly instances where that makes a lot of sense.

For example, look at the full version of one of the commandments:

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

  • Exodus 20:12

Would following a commandment to take care of your parents in their old age (‘honor’ here comes from the word for https://biblehub.com/hebrew/3513.htm) benefit you by setting an example such that when you are old that you too would be taken care of?

This was almost like social security in antiquity, much like the Sabbath was one of the first labor laws preventing working anyone more than 6 days in a row.

There’s something called the overjustification effect, where when you introduce external reward systems for something intrinsically rewarding people over focus on the external and forget the internal benefits. I think a number of religions have serious issues with that.

There’s even a certain irony in Job, named ‘persecuted’ in Hebrew because even though he lived a good life he experienced suffering which it explains by the intervention of Satan, today in the most common language among believers being the exact same word as “to do a task with the expectation of a reward.”

Maybe we’re too focused on the rewards.


Now see a post like this makes me wish there was Lemmy gold. Thanks!!


How odd, that one should be good not for the sake of goodness, but out of fear of damnation.

Jesus is an example of an ideal person. Being literally divine Jesus is capable of setting a perfect example of love, forgiveness, and compassion. We humans are not. We have flaws, but should still strive to be good people, just as Jesus was a good human.

If you are “being good” or “not being bad” for selfish reasons, you aren’t acting out of love or goodness. Heaven, hell, reward, punishment, these shouldn’t matter when it comes to virtue or vice.


So ELI5, if you are a little baby sheep and your Shepard was out caring for the flock. He provides a vast world for you to live in but there are bad things in the world and your little sheep brain can fall easily to these bad things. Your Shepard realises there is a way he can show you to live well without him around all the time, but it takes a big sacrifice on his part. He takes a look and goes you know what, I'll be a symbol, I'll give up my Shepard life and hopefully you will see, there is a bigger picture and a greater good. So little sheep, you can live in a bad world where people do bad things and I guess everyone suffers from it. Or you too can be like your Shepard and make sacrifices to be a good sheep, and if enough other sheep do the same the flock will be a pretty good place to be. PS. I'm not Christian but I figure that's the gist of the whole thing

@danielfgom@lemmy.world avatar

You won't be forgiven no matter what. If you carry on sinning, there is no more forgiveness. The only thing you can expect is to be thrown into outer darkness forever where you will be mourning and regretting your decision.

Put it this way: you drove drunk and killed someone. You've been given the death penalty by the judge. But a person called Jesus steps in and says "I'll take his place. Let him go free".

Would you ever drink drive again after someone died in your place to give you a second chance? Surely not! You would be sober, very grateful and even yet to help other people not make the same mistake.

It's the same with sin. Jesus paid a HEAVY price to redeem you. Don't spit in his face by carrying on with the same sins. Instead be grateful and find out how you should live instead.

Read the 10 commandments in Exodus 20. And also read the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) to see how Jesus further explains and practices these.

The goal is to become holy like Jesus

Hope that helps.


Good ELI5 answer. The “push” to do good comes from the feeling of thankfulness that you don’t have to take a death penalty from a wrongdoing, someone else is taking it instead.

Another take: Imagine when a friend takes you for a dinner treat, you’d be thankful for them that they paid for your food (and the food is not necessarily free, someone actually paid for the food). You’d at least try to be nice to him, as a gesture of thankfulness, and you wouldn’t want hurt their feeling after they took you for a treat. Deliberately or not.


What's so disheartening is that a lot of fundie Christians actually use this logic to get away with twisted stuff like SH, SA, or CSA.

(And then the next day they collectively blame drag queens for allegedly doing the exact same thing to CYA, but that's another story.)


Hey I'm not trying to be an ass as everyone has a right to contribute but you really didn't answer the ELI5 question. You just slandered some groups or something


You see, there are these things called eigenvalues. They dimentionalize the vector space. We can contruct a personality vector space and assign a set of orthogonal personality vectors. (Sees that this is elif). Erm, think of a "which Harry Potter character are you" quiz. We can add and subtract weighted , erm, Harry Potter characters, to get to you. You are half Harry plus two Rons minus 1.5 Malfos.

Now those numbers might change over time. That is you at that moment. If you, erm, took a DeLorean back to 1955, but still had those same numbers, you would still be you. If you wiped your memory but still had those numbers, you would still be you. Stands to reason if you went back in time and got your memory wiped, you would still be you. What if someone in the past (or future) had the exact same numbers? That would be you, even though no time travel occurred.

Now (erm, how do I explain vector projection to a five year old), ummm, if your numbers are close, you are mostly you? Now Jesus, ahh, scored a particular score on the sigh Harry Potter quiz. Remeber how I said your numbers change? Well, if your numbers are close enough, you could say that he is you, or Jesus is living Through you. And as long as more people in the future get numbers close to both yours and Jesus's, you could say you are living on, or having eternal life. And in order to change those number to Jesus's, you have to be good.

What? Oh, yes I got Hermonie. How did you know?


Seems to me this is a protestant thing, i grew up Catholic and repentance was a major part of it. You don't change and become a better person? Then no absolution for you.

@c0mbatbag3l@lemmy.world avatar

Depends on the protestant branch, I'd heard repentance defined as "turning away from sin 100% and leaving it behind" but that kind of theology gets mixed up in "faith not works" and the idea that if you haven't immediately asked forgiveness for every little time you mess up you're going to hell until you do. Swear while falling down the stairs, then die in your living room? Hell.

Of course there's also the opposite which is "once you accept Jesus there's no possible way you can ever not be saved" which doesn't match up with free will in my opinion.

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